Louis XIV (1638-1715), king of France (1643-1715),
was born at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
Louis, third monarch of the Bourbon family.
He ruled for 72 years, the longest reign in
European history. He was the unexpected child
of King Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, who
had not had children in their 22-year marriage.
He was christened Louis Dieudonné (literally,
“gift of God”). In 1643, before his
fifth birthday, his father died, and Louis
inherited the crown of France, which was internally
divided, militarily exhausted, and
nearly bankrupt. While Louis was a child,
his mother served as regent, ruling France in
his place. She was assisted by Jules Cardinal
Mazarin, the Italian financier who had been
the principal minister of Louis XIII. Mazarin had
guided the nation through the later stages
of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648).
Louis married Marie-Thérèse, out of diplomatic
necessity, she was the eldest daughter of
King Philip IV of Spain.The marriage was
arranged via a treaty that explicitly excluded
Marie's heirs from inheriting the Spanish
crown once Philip had paid her dowry. However,
the full dowry was never paid. Consequently,
Louis refused to relinquish his family's
claim to the Spanish inheritance, a claim
that was to influence French policy later
in Louis's reign.
After Mazarin died in 1661, Louis declared
that henceforth he would rule France
without a chief minister, something no French
king had done in living memory. He intended
to rule as an absolute monarch, believing
that his power as king was derived from
God and that he was responsible to God alone.
He took the sun as his emblem and connected
himself to its radiant image. Portraits,
woodcuts, and engravings of the king
portrayed as the Greek sun god Apollo poured
from Parisian workshops.
On the domestic front, Louis strengthened
the central government's control over the
diverse regions of France, incorporating
his territorial gains into a united state.
On the other hand, he provoked controversy
when he restored Catholic religious unity
by revoking the Edict of Nantes and repressing
Protestantism. Unfortunately many of Louis's
policies, both domestic and foreign, caused
great hardship to ordinary people, many of
whom suffered starvation, fled their homeland,
or lived in terror of persecution.